Labour Split on Welfare

By Rowan Williams
  • – Labour MPs rebel as welfare bill passed
  • – Toshiba CEO resigns over £780m scandal
  • – New BRICS bank launched in Shanghai


The Labour Party faced a rebellion on Monday night, as MPs passed a bill outlining cuts of £12 billion to the welfare budget. The bill includes a lowering of the benefit cap and the limitation of child tax credits to a family’s first two children. MPs backed the Welfare Reform and Work Bill by 308 to 124 votes, with 48 Labour MPs opposing the bill and defying party orders to abstain in the process. A Labour amendment to the bill, proposed by party leader Harriet Harman, was defeated by 308 votes to 208. Of Labour’s four party leadership candidates, only Jeremy Corbyn opposed the bill; Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall abstained. Harman has faced criticism for her abstention policy, with some claiming that Labour should oppose cuts to child tax credit and other in-work benefits.

The CEO of electronic giant Toshiba has stepped down over a major accounting scandal. Hisao Tanaka, who was also the firm’s president, resigned after company said it had overstated its profits for the past six years. The overstatement in profits amounted to £780 million, an independent panel found. The overstatement was approximately three times Toshiba’s initial profit estimate. Former president and current vice-president, Norio Sasaki, also knew of the overstatement. Tanaka and Sasaki reportedly created a corporate culture where business heads were forced to manipulate figures to meet targets, the panel also said. Japanese politicians have said that the scandal threatens to undermine confidence in corporate governance in Japan.

Leaders of the world’s major leading economies launched the New Development Bank (NDB) in Shanghai on Tuesday, the second major Beijing-backed institution to be pitched as an alternative to the World Bank. The NDB, also known as the BRICS bank, will fund infrastructure and development projects in the BRICS nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The NDB follows in the footsteps of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a bank that will fund infrastructure projects in Asia. The NDB, whose headquarters are in Shanghai, has said it aims to maintain close ties with the AIIB. Both banks also present alternatives to the Washington-led World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The NDB will have an initial capital of US$50 billion, equally funded by its five member institutions, and will also have a reserve currency pool, two fifths of which will be funded by China.

The Papers

A broad mix of stories in the headlines today. Following on from yesterday, The Times leads with news that the Prime Minister has urged Britain to “integrate to beat the extremists”. In a speech yesterday on extremism, David Cameron also told schools and housing estates to “break down ethnic barriers”. The Guardian leads with news that government benefit cuts have hit a “Huge number of children”. According to the paper, an impact assessment by the government has identified “330,000 youngsters who will lose out. The Independent leads with news of a “Sharp rise in the cost of a degree”. The cost of a degree will rise by £3,800 on average, rising to £6,000 for middle-income families, following a decision to freeze the threshold at which graduates repay their student loan, rather than raising it in line with inflation. The Daily Telegraph leads with news of the “Scandal of sick patients rushed out of hospital”. A report from a health watchdog found that one million patients are readmitted to hospital as emergency patients within 30 days of their initial discharge, due to being discharged too quickly. The Financial Times leads with news that the price of gold has hit its “lowest level in five years” amid a broader commodities sell-off, prompted by a rise in US interest rates.

British Media on China

On Ling Jihua: The formal announcement of charges against Ling Jihua, former aide to Hu Jintao, has received coverage from several UK media outlets. Ling “has been charged with corruption and removed” from the Chinese Communist Party, the BBC reports. The BBC gives background on other high-profile officials embroiled in corruption charges in its coverage. The Financial Times reports that Ling “came to symbolise the excesses of the Communist party elite”, in part due to “the death of his son at the wheel of a Ferrari sports car in a crash that also injured two semi-clad female passengers”. The Guardian’s agency piece reports that Ling’s expulsion from the Party was “long expected”.

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